Everyday Heaven – SheLoves, April 2015

It’s that time again – my monthly spot at that good, good place, SheLoves Magazine. You can begin this one here and follow the link at the bottom to get to the rest of it. The theme this month? “Thin Places”DSC03813

Several decades ago, I stopped talking about heaven as if it were ‘up there’ somewhere, in the ethereal blue sky, far away from the life we know here. Even though scripture uses that kind of metaphor frequently, I began to find it unhelpful. A metaphor is one thing — and believe me, I love a good metaphor — but when we begin to use the metaphor as our primary understanding or even description of the real thing? Well, that’s when the metaphor loses its power and can too easily become a stumbling block.

I’ll be honest here and admit that the pictures of heaven that were painted for me when I was a child were not particularly attractive. The idea of sitting around on a cloud, strumming a harp and singing non-stop just didn’t cut it with my 9-year-old self. And it doesn’t cut it with my 70-year-old self, either — and this self is a heckuva lot closer to actually seeing heaven than that 9-year-old was.

So when I took a course on Revelation in seminary, I was struck by the power of the worship described in that book and I was pushed to re-think my whole concept of an eternity spent with God. I began to wonder about all that non-stop singing and to question the sort of rootless, purposeless existence a cloud-sitting, harp-strummer would have to endure in the heaven-I-thought-I-knew.

Maybe heaven is a place where there are many good things to do, maybe even good work to do? The highly metaphorical language of Revelation tells us there are rivers and trees and a garden — so who cares for those? There is also a magnificent city, glistening in the light of an eternal sun — who keeps that place running? And there are all kinds of people there, streaming up the road to join in the celebration. Where will they live and what do they do?

Hmmmm . . . Maybe heaven is a place where the learning we begin here somehow continues, where we can try all different kinds of instruments and not get stuck with harps, where there will be lots of lovely things to look at and wonder about, to plan for and bring to fruition. Maybe heaven is a place of catching-up and catching-on, of finding exactly the right rhythm of working and resting, of discovering more and more layers to love and kindness and strength and wonder.

Now this is a heaven I can dream about and actually look forward to!

Click on this line to join the conversation about thin places today!

Small but Mighty! — for SheLoves

Our theme for this month is “Dangerous Women” and I decided to write something quite personal, known only to our particular family story. Maybe you’ve got a few of such ‘dangerous women’ in your own family tree? You can read the rest of this piece by clicking here.

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Elsie and Harry’s wedding day, circa 1905, two of her cousins as attendants

She didn’t quite make it to five feet tall. Born in the wilds of Alberta Canada at the end of the 19th century, Elsie lost her mother when she was just ten years old and her baby sister was three. Her dad worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway and was often gone for long stretches of time, and for the first few months after her mom’s death, Elsie ran their home.

Until she started buying more sweets at the grocer’s than nutritious food!

After that, she and her sister lived with their aunt in Vancouver, regularly attending the Salvation Army church with their three cousins. By her mid-teens, Elsie was a soprano soloist with the Army, singing on street corners, regularly attracting a small crowd. She attended a secretarial school during those years and worked in an office for a while, but then felt the tug to head to Winnipeg to go into training to become an Officer for the church.

And then — a mysterious and handsome older man heard her sing one afternoon. He was immediately smitten, and so was she. Elsie had just enough of the rebel in her spirit to choose a man 12 years older, divorced and a former gold miner in the Yukon. Very quickly, they were married and the idea of Winnipeg and officer training faded into the distance.

The couple moved to Vancouver Island, living in the town of Duncan, and Elsie’s Harry found a job in a lumber mill nearby. They very quickly had three children and Elsie was pregnant with the fourth when they decided to move to California. That move included Elsie’s sister and their three cousins plus a few friends. They piled everyone onto the train and off they went, into a future that was far from assured and fraught with economic insecurity.

They raised their four children in several different neighborhoods in the greater Los Angeles area, Elsie working full time for most of those years. Her family believes she needed a break from childcare — and all those unmarried women in the family were more than happy to provide help. Elsie Hobson was an early subscriber to the feminist ideal of equal pay for equal work!

Although she left the Army behind in Canada, her faith was still important to her. Her husband did not share that faith, but agreed that their children could attend church and decide for themselves. So each week, they’d drop the kids off at Sunday school and come back to get them later in the day. . . 

Please come on over and join the conversation. Tell us about a dangerous woman you have known – just click right here.

Becoming the Right Size — SheLoves

This is quite possibly the most vulnerable and personal post I have ever written. It was time to tackle this very large piece of who I am (pun intended). You can begin the post here and then please follow the link to finish it over at SheLoves today:


Sometime in the early 1980s

I have jokingly said that I’ve never been small in my life. Trouble is, I am only half-joking. I am a large person — always have been, always will be. I have baby pictures with my closest cousin during our first year — and believe me when I tell you this — I am gargantuan compared to this lovely, tiny peanut of a babe who grew up to be one of my favorite people in the universe. That picture was frequently taken out at family gatherings, everyone always marveling at the giant child in their midst.

Until the boys began to have hormones moving through their systems at about age 14 or so, I was also the tallest in my class. Always. I was awkward, uncoordinated, had difficult skin issues and stick straight hair that my mother was incessantly trying to curl with permanent wave solution. And no, it did not work.

I was also loud, sometimes quite bossy and usually anxious about something. Not the best combo in the world for developing a sturdy psyche or nurturing a strong sense of self. All these things made me feel overwhelmingly large in any social situation — on the edge, insecure, impossible to hide. And somewhere inside myself, I decided that I might as well BE big, the biggest of them all.

So I worked hard. I studied, got great grades, learned a lot of different things, developed the cooperation gene to the fullest extent possible, and tried to ‘blend in.’ I did what was expected of me, trying not to stir up the dust as I worked.

I did this for a very long time – decades, in fact. I was the quintessential ‘big girl,’ absorbing everyone’s expectations, grief, neuroses, demands, anger, neediness. And somewhere along the way — about the time I started to have babies — I became a really, REALLY large woman. I enveloped myself in a layer of extra pounds that fluctuated from time to time, but always managed to keep me safe, well-padded and sturdy in the midst of whatever turmoil might be raging around me.

I remember successfully losing about 60 pounds one year and going for a dip in the pool at a friend’s house. She turned to me with a surprised look on her face and said, “Wow, Diana, you’re actually quite a small person, aren’t you?”

Can you guess how fast those pounds came right back on? Small? ME? No way. Everything in me was repulsed at the thought, and shocked to think she might be right.

I could not be small, you see. I could not. I did not know myself as a small person. How would I possibly manage all the pain I carried if I were small?

So I made sure I was big enough to shoulder the load.

Please click here to continue the conversation over at SheLoves . . .

Gathering the Pieces – SheLoves

A new year, a return to a loved and familiar place. It’s the fourth Saturday of the month, and I’m up. When you read this, I will be away from home, celebrating a milestone birthday with my family gathered round. It was their idea, and I am blessed to be with them. I’ll try to sneak back here and interact with anyone who wishes in the comment section over at SheLoves. You can get there by clicking here.



Some ‘gathering’ friends of the mind I’ve met online and IRL.

“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”  —  Toni Morrison, Beloved

Who do you know that ‘gathers you?’ Who are the women in your life who see you, all of you, the pieces of you? The ones who can help you gather them up, the ones that help you to stand straighter, walk smarter? Who are the women who are ‘friends of your mind?’

We all need friends like that, don’t we? But man, they are hard to come by. I’ve been pondering why that is true and have built quite a little list of probable contributing factors. But at the bottom of it all, I keep coming back to this one: we are in a perpetual hurry. And friendships-of-the-mind require time, intention and attention.

But we’re so busy, aren’t we?We’ve got so much to do, so many people to see (very briefly, of course!), and an unending list of things to see/do/make/find/improve/ change/understand/ begin/finish. Am I right?

All of which leads to one central truth: we are habitually tired. And in the midst of chronic fatigue, who has the internal space or the emotional energy to build relationships that gather us, especially when there are deadlines to be met, crying babies to be tended, demanding bosses to be dealt with, and astronomically high expectations to be realized?Those expectation, I might add, are almost always self-imposed.

I am writing this in the middle of December, smack dab in the clutches of all things crazy. And I am feeling a sense of loss in the center of me as I try to navigate it all. My husband was sick last week and I found myself in possession of two tickets to a Christmas concert. And I could not, for the life of me, come up with someone to call and say, “Hey, can you join me?”

So now, as I carve out a few hours to be quiet and attentive to this particular writing deadline, I am wondering: how can I do my life differently in the year that is rising before us? How can I become a woman who ‘gathers the pieces’ of others and who finds friends who can gather the pieces of me?

Please join me over at SheLoves Magazine – one of my favorite spaces out here in cyberville.

An Advent Lament: SheLoves

My friend Kelley Nikondeha and I are writing about lament this month at one of our favorite places — SheLoves Magazine. It seems fitting for lament to be a central piece of Advent, maybe especially this Advent. This piece starts off our series of four. On Saturday, Kelley will respond to this individual lament. Then she will write a community lament next Tuesday and I’ll respond the following Saturday. Our psalter is rich with both kinds of sad songs — written from one person’s perspective and also, from the community’s. Please join us as we walk through these songs in the days before Christmas.



Each December, we find ourselves in a season of waiting. Primarily, we wait for that baby to be born, to break through the bonds of water and blood and slither down into the dust from which we all emerged. We wait for the baby, the infant conqueror, the one who shows up not as mighty warrior but as a small and helpless human person.

It is the most remarkable story ever told, this one we share.  Scandalous, even ludicrous — a grand and mighty God showing up, looking like the rest of us, squalling, searching for sustenance, blinking against the light. The birth of a baby is always cause for celebration, and this one certainly deserves to be celebrated.

And yet, there is also an undercurrent of sadness swirling beneath the pretty decorations and the sweet smells. An undercurrent that rattles around in my soul and lurks in the corners of my heart, pushing me to pay attention, to make room. Room for the babe in the manger, yes. But also, room for the painful details, both then and now, room for the tears, the anguish, the questions and the loss.

Because there is always loss, isn’t there? This journey we’re on is littered with broken hearts, with pocketed tears and too many regrets. So I wonder — this Christmastime, amid the major key sounds of the pop music that bombards us everywhere we go, can we also make room for the echo of an oboe, can we sit with some minor chords that might not resolve anytime soon?

Truth be told, there are pieces of our Christmas story that would not sell many Hallmark cards: a captive nation, refugees on the road, poverty, homelessness, murderous kings and the wholesale slaughter of little boys. And right now, this year, amid the joyous gathering of family, the feasting, the children’s sweet singing, the giving of gifts, there are so many swallowed tears, there are questions, there is sadness.

There is, most assuredly, room for lament:

And so, I sing the hard news as well as the good,
the edges as well as the center.
And I sing it all to you, O Lord — to whom else can I go?

Hear me, O Lord. Hear my cry!
Here is the truth: those we love leave us, Lord.
They leave us in all kinds of painful ways:
     they die, suddenly or after long suffering;
     they betray us with false words and false hearts;
     they get lost in the thicket of mental illness.

Sometimes we lose ourselves, too, O God:
     we do battle with addictions;
     we wrestle with confusion;
     we sink into depression or anxiety.

Too often, those who say they love you,
     betray you with their words and their actions.
     And sometimes, the betrayer is me. . .

To read the rest of this lament, please click here to join us at SheLoves today. . .

SheLoves: Tuning In

Once again, it’s the last Saturday of the month and I’m joining the amazing crew at SheLoves Magazine. This month, we’re writing about listening. I took a very personal slant on that idea this time around . . .

I took a short walk at the beach today, the first time since early June. I was slow, my stride was short, my right hip hurts, my left heel hurts, but . . . I took a walk at the beach today. You have no idea how much freedom is contained in that short sentence.

I took a walk at the beach today.

I’m sitting in the shade this afternoon, enjoying the clarity of the water, the light fuzziness of the skyline, the crowds of local people, enjoying the beauty of the beach. It’s very nice to be back in the school routine, not the tourist routine. There is parking!

There is room for me once again.”

These are journaling words from mid-September, written about 48 hours after being released from a heavy boot and the restrictions of a walker. I was finally able to wear TWO shoes after a long stretch (almost 14 weeks) of one-footed-ness while in various stages of recovery from foot surgery in early June.

It was that day that I knew I had turned a corner. Why? Because something about being near the ocean invites me to listen differently. To listen to the scene around me — the rhythm of the water against the shore, the call of the gulls, the splash and squeal of children getting wet, the gentle conversations of friends and family in different configurations along the water line.  And to listen to the sweet voice of God, reminding me that I am seen, I am loved. All of it was welcome, familiar, comforting, a reminder that there is a bigger world than the confines of my bedroom. There is a bigger God than the one I had been imagining while confined!

When you are ill, or in the midst of a long recovery of some kind, listening well becomes problematic and strangely difficult.  There is solitude to be found, that is most certainly true! But it’s a strange kind of solitude, not intentional, but enforced by circumstances beyond your control. And sometimes that enforced solitude can mean turning inward in ways that are not always healthy.

I am discovering that there is a difference between turning inward to hear from the gentle voice of the Spirit and turning inward to be assaulted by the anxieties and struggles of my own sick self. Finding my way through that particular thicket has not always been easy during this stretch of time.

 Please follow the link on over there, won’t you?

Stepping into the Shoes — SheLoves

It’s the last Saturday of the month – so it must be my turn to offer a contribution over at SheLoves Magazine! You can start that piece right here and then follow the links over to finish it off . . .


I’m not quite sure how I got pegged as a leader, but somehow, it happened. Not in my school or social settings, however; it happened at church, after my family moved and we began attending a church with a large youth ministry.

And I went to everything.

I loved church. I felt safe there, secure, even confident. Church attendance was always a part of our family story. Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday evenings, social events, weddings, memorial services. Yeah, we went to it all. I was an eager middle school learner with a sweet, college-aged Bible leader on those Sunday evenings. And that woman was among the first to identify leadership and teaching gifts in me.

Those gifts got put on the sideline after college, at least for a few years. We served overseas together and had our 3 kids pretty quickly. And when they were 7, 5 and 3, we shifted to a more local congregation, and it was in that place that my gifts were recognized, affirmed, identified and labeled as gifts belonging to a pastor.

A pastor? Me?

I had never seen a woman lead in worship, unless it was a visiting single missionary or the local leading layperson in youth ministry. Never.

That idea, which was in many ways the natural progression of what began when I was twelve years old, never entered my mind.  So my decision to go to seminary in my mid-forties was based on what I experienced as a call to seminary, a desire to become a better Bible teacher, a more experienced worship planner. Even while there, I honestly never thought about leading a congregation in a pastoral role.

But two of my male professors called me out on that. “We see the gifts, Diana. Why not pray and consider whether or not God might be preparing you for exactly that?”

And so a long discernment process began during the second of my four years in school. And one late afternoon in year three, while taking a long walk around my neighborhood and earnestly seeking God’s wisdom and will, 

Please click here to join me over at SheLoves . . .

Doing the Work – for SheLoves

It is always a joy to contribute a monthly essay to SheLoves magazine, one of the most welcoming places on the internet. This month, I was asked to bring something a little bit different – to write about spiritual direction as a part of a special week on mentoring ministries. Please follow me over there to read the entire piece. 


They sit in the red leather chair. Or they’re across the country, taking to me by Skype. Either way, I sit in my small study, settle deep into my hand-made, craftsman-style armchair, a lit candle by my side, my spirit ready, waiting.

They come to be heard, to be seen in ways that are welcoming and formational. I come to learn, to listen, to pray. And what we find is a kind of newness, a refreshing reminder of God’s presence and an ever-increasing willingness to do this good work. Together.

Spiritual direction is what it’s called. Companionship-on-the-way is what it is. Long a practice of the ancient church, surfacing in the 20th century in broader and wider corners of Christendom, this partnering together is holy ground, a sacred place where one person, trained in a variety of disciplines, prayerfully listens to the life of another, asking gentle questions, pulling out threads, weaving them together into a new idea, a new question, a glimpse of what the Spirit is doing.

I am relatively new to the whole idea of direction. I first began to hear and read about it in the late 1980s. I learned that direction is not therapy, though it incorporates many ideas and even techniques from that discipline. It is also not pastoral counseling, something I did quite a lot of during the seventeen years that I was a pastor. It is its own unique animal, a thing not quite like any other, a process that is hard to describe, difficult to encapsulate.

I began direction for the first time when I moved to Santa Barbara in the late 1990s and continued with it for three years. I took a break from that process for a while and then, about ten years ago, a new boss suggested I look into pursuing certification as a director myself, and a seed was planted, deep in my spirit.

 So come on over and join the conversation, okay? Just click on this line . . .

Learning to Lean — SheLoves

Each month, it is my privilege to write for SheLoves Magazine. Here are some reflections on the idea of authenticity. . .


So exactly how authentic would you like me to be? Would you like some of the more grimy details related to surgical recovery? A picture of what it’s like to be suddenly down to one leg?

Well, okay then. A little peek into our days just now, a glimpse of where I find myself post-surgery, and some of what I’m learning while I’m here.

Have you ever tried to get into a shower with one foot? Can’t be done, I tell you. Cannot be done. I’ve recently begun to master the fine art of hopping, but jumping? Not gonna happen. And any shower with a normal door requires one gigantic jump, let me tell you.

The only appliance — and believe me, we have several — the only appliance that helped me get into that shower is my new best friend, a four-wheeled contraption called a knee caddy. The walker just did not cut it. The crutches? Fuggedabout it. Even the shower chair, on loan from a friend, didn’t help all that much. But that funky scooter, coupled with one determined husband?

Yeah, that did the trick.

Half in and half out, my injured leg atop the cushions on said scooter, I finally managed to make the small leap over the shower lip and land safely on the tiled bench we built into our shower over a decade ago. Our shower — part of the master suite, which has become my home of late. And also, my prison.

I knew this would happen. I’ve been preparing for it for a couple of months now, practicing my maneuvers on one leg, learning to keep everything I need within reach, asking for help when I need it.

But it’s that last piece that is the worst one of all.

I am not good at asking for help. I’m pretty good at giving it, been doing that all of my life. But receiving it? An experience so unfamiliar as to be downright unrecognizable, almost undoable. It seems I would rather take the risk of falling out of bed to make that one – last – reach than to raise my voice and shout for HELP.

Why is that, I wonder?

Won’t you follow me over to SheLoves for the rest of this piece and the always wonderful conversational thread that builds in that place. . .

That Fifth Commandment — She Loves

I’ve been privileged the last few months to write a monthly essay over at SheLoves, one of my favorite spaces on the internet. This is the story for June . . .


I helped my husband teach Sunday School a few weeks ago. He teaches the kids in grades 1-4 and his usual teammate was out of town on Mother’s Day, so he asked me to step in.

I did all I could to stifle a groan, forced a smile and said, “Well. I guess so.”

Not the most gracious response, I will admit. Since I retired from ministry a little over three years ago, I’ve sort of ‘given up’ Sunday school. I did a lot of planning, coordinating, setting up tables and chairs, and teaching during my years as an associate pastor, and, to tell you the truth, I am pretty burned out on the whole shebang.

Also? I taught adults. That’s what my call was, that’s where my gifts lie, and for a long time, I absolutely loved it.

I think it was the tables and chairs that finally got to me.

So, for most of the last three years, I have gotten up, gotten dressed and driven my husband to church, dropping him off by the children’s wing. And then, I’ve turned my car around and headed right straight down to the beach.

I park my car near the bluffs, under the lone cypress tree that marks ‘my spot,’ and I sit with my tea and my toast and I stare at the sea. Sometimes, I read scripture or a devotional guide. Sometimes I just sit. Always, I open myself to God and listen. And you want to know something? I’ve gotten so much more out of worship when I begin my Sunday this way — by myself, by the sea.

So to give that up — on Mother’s Day, no less — was tough to do.


I wanted to honor my husband.

I don’t do enough of that these days. We’ve grown into a comfortable pattern of occupying this house in separate spaces most of the day. We check in with each other, we check up on each other — but part of the adjustment to our both being home together, all day, every day, has meant the creation of parallel lives, at least to some extent. So agreeing to his request that we do something together seemed timely and important.

And he really, really wanted me there.

Part of the lesson involved looking at the fifth commandment . . .

Please join me over at SheLoves today to read the rest of this story . . .